Three administrators were panelists Thursday at the Chamber of Commerce Serving Middletown, Monroe and Trenton Higher Education seminar at The Windamere Event Center. From left: Jon Graft, superintendent of Butler Tech; Tom Hale, director of Cincinnati State Middletown, and Cathy Bishop-Clark, associate provost and dean of Miami University Regionals. RICK McCRABB/STAFF

Miami Regionals dean: Innovative Work+ program is a ‘win’ for all involved

Since Work+ began this year, Bishop-Clark said only one of the 24 students in the program has dropped out, and the number of employers participating is expected to double.

“That’s why I’m genuinely excited about this,” she said.

The program provides students an opportunity to obtain an associate or bachelor’s degree while working part-time and getting their tuition paid by their employers.

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“It’s a win for the community, the student and the employer,” Bishop-Clark said Thursday during a Higher Education seminar hosted by the Chamber of Commerce serving Middletown, Monroe and Trenton.

Students work approximately 24 hours a week with one of four employers and take classes in a major of their choice, she said. This allows students to receive an education at the Miami Regionals — valued at $6,200 per year — debt-free, Bishop-Clark said.

She said the four employers are Thyssenkrupp Bilstein of America in Hamilton, Deceuninck in Monroe, The Fischer Group in Fairfield and Butler County Regional Transit Authority in Hamilton. Based on the success of the program, four companies are expected to join soon, she said.

The employers are responsible for the “last dollar” of tuition, meaning after scholarships and Pell Grants have been subtracted. Employers are billed for tuition for grades that are C-minus or better.

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The employer benefits include: Increasing employee pool, hiring employees who are committed to at least one year of employment, hiring employees whose college course schedule will coordinate the 24 hours of work per week, and recruiting strong part-time employees into longer-term, full-time positions, Bishop-Clark said.

When asked about the flexibility of the program, she said one student works 12-hour shifts Saturday and Sunday and attends classes Monday through Friday.

Work+ is the brainchild of Ohio Sen. Bill Coley, R-Liberty Twp. Coley has said students will benefit by having increased awareness of job requirements and career opportunities, while local companies will have greater access to more skilled workers.

Scrambling for students

When the economy is strong, students typically attend more expensive colleges leaving smaller, less expensive colleges, scrambling for students.

When Cincinnati State opened a branch campus in Middletown eight years ago, enrollment was 320 and grew to more than 700, said Tom Hale, director. But now enrollment is less than 300, he said.

Bishop-Clark said smaller universities are “very tied to the economy.”

Hall said the Cincinnati State staff thrives providing individual attention to its students. He said staff walks students through the application paperwork.

“We set them up for success,” Hall said.

‘War on talent’

As the Butler County unemployment rates falls to 3.9 percent, Jon Graft, superintendent of Butler Tech, said: “This is a war on talent” and he encouraged employers seeking workers to start recruiting early and often.

“It’s only going to get worse as the demand for technical skills grows,” he said.

Graft said the lines between high school and colleges are “getting blurred” as more students take college courses in high school. At Butler Tech, students will be offered a “Fifth Day” program next year that allows them to spend Fridays either taking college courses or working.

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